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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Red wine for the clueless

How much do you (not) know about this drink?
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - July 2, 2010
By: Wong Wei Chen
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Red wine for the clueless

For a newcomer, the sophisticated world of wines can prove pretty intimidating. When I first started drinking the beverage, the only thing I knew was that wines come in red and white varieties, and that was all.

It takes time, patience and lots of tastings to acquire solid firsthand knowledge, but a good way to start is to learn the basic vocabulary and concepts. This week, we’ll look at red wines and some common terms used in association with this drink.

Where do they come from?
No, red wines aren’t made from malted barley, rye or other cereal grains. Beer is made from those, but wine comes from grapes. So for a start, get this distinction between these two major classes of alcoholic beverages into your head, and you’ll soon be coming through the rye, and into the clear.

The grapes
Two types of grapes are used to make wine: red grapes and white grapes. Obviously, red wines are made from red grapes. However, they do not actually get their colour from the fruit pulp, but from the grape skin during fermentation.

Wines frequently get their names from the type of grapes used. Here’s a list of popular grape varieties, and what you can expect from them:

Cabernet Sauvignon
Highly regarded by many connoisseurs, this variety is often referred to as the “king of red wine grapes”. Though these grapes are grown in many regions, with soil and climate variations, wines from them display a certain family resemblance. The aromas and flavours are dark berry, black currant, black cherry and plum. Cabernet Sauvignon can display herbaceous qualities reminiscent of anise, sage, green olive, bell pepper and others.

Usually found wherever Cabernet Sauvignon is grown, Merlot is marked by pleasant, sweet-fruit flavours characteristic of currant and cherry fruits. The hallmark of a good Merlot wine is a rich, supple texture, and a less caustic taste when young.

Pinot Noir
Chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France, the Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to cultivate. However, the results are well worth the effort, since this variety is known to yield some of the finest wines in the world. Wines produced using this type of grape tend to be lighter, sporting fruity flavours akin to sweet red berries, plums or cherries, and at times an earthy or wood-like aroma.

Shiraz It sounds like what a wizard would say before casting some fell magic, but don’t worry – this is just the name of a grape. Shiraz wines tend to be astringent, sport a medium to full body, and yield rich flavours reminiscent of blackberry, pepper, clove, dark chocolate, liquorice and smoked meat.

True wine appreciation does not come from reading alone. Experience is the best teacher, so use what I’ve written in this article as a rough guide, and start drinking and eating for all you’re worth! After all, if you’ve never eaten blackberries before, telling you that a certain wine has a blackberry flavour is probably not much more informative than saying that an apple is an apple.


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